Great piece over at NPR on a study (and I’m glad they’re doing it) to see how residents perform during thirty hour shifts:
The study compares the current rules, which limit first-year residents to working no more than 16 hours without a break, with a more flexible schedule that could allow the young doctors to work up to 30 hours.
Researchers will examine whether more mistakes happen on one schedule or the other and whether the residents learn more one way or the other. The year-long study started in July.
“If we want to take the best care of patients now and in the future, we really need to understand much more about the intricate balance of hours, education and care,” saysDavid Asch, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who is leading the study.
Some people believe that working whose shifts gives residents more of an ability to see how disease progresses over time. Others believe that the continuity of keeping the same doctor watching over patients is good for them. Of course, there’s almost no other profession which would tolerate this. Especially professions where mistakes could lead to catastrophy.
When I was a resident, I regularly worked thirty-plus hour shifts. I have no idea if this led me to make mistakes. I’m sure, however, that it made me a worse human being, which I do think made me a worse doctor.